Optimism is learned behaviour. Behaviours that come naturally are those we’ve practised over a long period of time. Here are a few key pointers to help you become more optimistic of a positive future:
DECIDE WHETHER YOU’RE AN OWL OR A LARK – Notice which time of the day you do your best work and engineer to set that time aside for the most important things. If you’re someone who burns the midnight oil and who relies on the alarm to get you up in a morning then deciding to go for your daily run at 5:30am isn’t going to be sustainable. You’ll be doing well if you manage two mornings in a row let alone a full week and I should know! Failing at the first hurdle (which you put there by the way) will cause you to feel bad about yourself and reinforce any natural pessimism. Starting your day like this is debilitating and you’ll likely find the day going downhill from there. Get your days going with something you feel good about, however small. It’ll feel like a win and you’ll be encouraged to build some momentum and get more done in the day, maintaining that feel good feeling.
CREATE A SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT – An old tutor of mine used to say that she did her best thinking during the ‘Godly hour’. That sounds way too early for me but I have since learned that my best ideas come between waking up and getting up. So, I factor in some extra time to think when setting my alarm. Take the time to create an environment supportive of you being in a creative frame of mind. Don’t worry if you are only able to do this for small pockets of time. Even once in the day maybe more than you are managing right now and you might be surprised at the results. Remember life is a series of small decisions and small steps so just keep moving forward, one step at a time.
EXPERIMENT – Having achieved the first two steps, play around with what you have learned. How long do you need to come up with genuinely useful ideas? How quickly do you need to act on them before they are lost forever? Remember that you don’t have to act on every idea you have. Identify the ones with legs and experiment. There will no doubt be many different ways to get the job done.
REVIEW YOUR PROGRESS – consider what practical adjustments you could make. Which elements are working well and where are you dragging your heels? What needs to change for you to believe those ideas are important enough to follow up on? If something isn’t turning out the way you planned then don’t be afraid to change tack or even can the idea altogether. Focus on the things that are making a difference and reassess the situation from there.
BE CONSISTENT – How easily can you sustain the new behaviour? Successful individuals know what works for them and they apply those principles consistently. The new behaviours become routine; something they do without further thought. It’s important to make sure you can consistently apply any changes you make; that your actions are sustainable. That way you avoid reverting back to old habits which clearly weren’t working for you in the first place!
If you’re making excuses about not following through on an idea then you’re still missing a piece of the jigsaw. Consider whether a great idea is simply that and not something you will ever pursue if you are being honest with yourself. Or maybe it is something you’re excited about but you’re going about it in the wrong way. Whatever the hold up, make it your business to find out because only then will you act and we need to take action to get better results. Moreover, taking action makes us feel important and believing your actions matter is how the brain learns optimism.
From a place of feeling optimistic anything is possible. Suddenly, that unmet career aspiration moves within reach. Which great idea could you act on today?